In what was intended to be a largely uneventful Calexico City Council meeting in which a new mayor and a new council member was to be sworn in, the proceedings took on a more serious tone to start when City Manager David Dale resigned July 1 after three years on the job.
His resignation becomes effective Aug. 1.
Dale had come under fire from certain community members in recent weeks, not only for allegations of double-dipping on the job, but as a surrogate and part of a corrupt City Hall in the wake of David Romero’s indictment and guilty plea for accepting bribes from an undercover federal agent.
“I notified the council Wednesday night (July 1) that I formally and respectfully submitted a resignation from my position as city manager. I was recently offered an opportunity to return to civil engineering and have decided to take the offer. This opportunity will allow me to continue to serve others,” Dale said, reading from a prepared statement during city manager reports at the start of the meeting.
“I’ve been able to surround myself with truly dedicated, capable department heads and great employees. I love this city that has so much potential. That is one reason it was a difficult decision to make,” he said. “I truly appreciate and value my time spent at the city and the relationships that were formed, but I am also excited to embark on this new journey.
Dale’s news was learned when City Attorney Carlos Campos reported out of closed session that Dale had resigned, and the council unanimously voted 5-0 to appoint Assistant City Manager Miguel Figueroa as the new city manager. Campos’ announcement did not say “interim” or “acting.” He said an employment contract would come back at an upcoming meeting.
Dale talked up some of the highlights of his time on the job before addressing the critics who became too much for him to bear.
“Together, we have changed the direction of the city. We have erased a massive deficit and negative balance in the general fund. What was a negative balance of $4 million at one point, is now positive with projected reserves. In 2017, most of the department heads were interim or acting. We did not have a formal city clerk position. Now, under our leadership, we have qualified department heads working in unity to make this city better,” Dale said.
“Critics of public servants come from all walks of life. The First Amendment is key to our American society. It is extremely important and should be protected. Public servants should be held to a high standard. However, what we are seeing today in politics locally and across the nation is some people making up stories for political gain or agendas, without concern for the possible damage to the personal lives that are affected,” the city manager said, as he became to answer his accusations.
“It is easy to tell the difference between true critics and ones that have hidden agendas. The key difference between a true critic that is concerned for the direction of the agency is they will not run with speculation or lies and will apologize if proven wrong,” Dale said.
“A true critic will not resort to name-calling or make personal slanderous remarks. A person with true intentions on the betterment of the agency will also acknowledge the good things that are occurring. Critics that have hidden agendas will throw all the mud they can to see what sticks. They will lie, call names, there are no boundaries. The mud that doesn’t stick is ignored,” he added.
It’s not clear all that Dale is referring to, but among the biggest complaints against him were allegations in two late June Probe columns in the Imperial Valley Press that Dale was working under a paid contract for his former employer, Borrego Water District, while still drawing a paycheck from the city of Calexico.
Dale answered once that the assertion was not true and that he did not get paid for work he did because a contract was never signed by him. The issue was brought up again a day or so letter when the letter writer to Probe said Dale lied in the answer.
The Calexico Chronicle received the same complaints, and Dale also denied the allegations to the Chronicle.
The Chronicle could also find no proof that Dale had accepted any payment despite the complainant’s “proof” that Dale had accepted money, some $100,000, which Dale did say was approved by the Borrego Water District board, but which Dale said he never received because the full contract was not signed.
Dale, city staff and the City Council had also come under fire over the last several weeks when former council member Romero and his political appointee, Bruno Soto-Suarez, were indicted and later pleaded guilty to accepting $35,000 in bribes to fast-track a cannabis permit.
Romero indicated to the undercover FBI agent and to prosecutors that they had taken bribes before.
In the issue of transparency, Dale provided the Chronicle with a copy of his resignation speech a few hours before the July 1 meeting.